Keep it Clean
Today I thought I’d tell you about the single, most important piece of my kit. I think every magician should have and use one, or at least something similar. For me it’s vital I don’t do any gig without them. Here it is:
When performing close up I believe a magician has to view their hands almost as their stage. The hands are just ‘there’, making the magic happen, whilst in the mind of the audience not actually being a part of the magic itself. But grubby nails are just nasty. Even if a person doesn’t consciously notice black nails on a magician – and I find that hard to believe – there will be a part of them that picks up on the general lack of care taken.
I got into the habit of always checking my nails with clippers before a performance when working at Covent Garden. In London your nails will get grubby in no time - there is nothing to be ashamed of in this, even a few stops on the tube is enough to blacken your nails - but a few moments just before performing was all I needed to make sure they looked clean and well presented. This habit has stayed with me and now every time I perform a few minutes before I’ll make sure my nails are clean and clipped, and then wash my hands. A great magician I know takes it one step further, actually manicuring his nails before a performance.
At The Session magic convention a sight which I found physically distressing was a magician using the toilet and then simply walking out. The nature of our job means not only are our hands important aesthetically but also hygienically. We ask people to pick cards we’ve been handling, pass them props and other items all the time. Also, if you are a busy working professional you are going to be around the general public, some of whom may not have the highest standards of hygiene. If a magician wants to keep going you must minimise the chance of making yourself sick, let alone not wanting becoming the Typhoid Mary of a client’s wedding!
Another important thing is to actually clean your nail clippers. The bacteria and grime that you get under your nails means to me it’s common sense that we need to keep the tools clean as well as our hands. I just use hot, soapy water and a toothbrush. I dry it off with a clean paper towel and I’m yet to spot any rust, despite using very cheap clippers.
Magicians come in many different styles and looks, and the scruffy rogue or playful hobo are both legitimate architypes. But there is no excuse for a professional performer to *actually* be dirty. This rule applies to the props and items we use just as much. Even the most expert of flourishes cannot disguise a disgusting deck of cards. I perform several tricks that can be considered ‘gross’, but even when I do I’m always careful to ensure they are set up and carried out in a hygienic way. Frankly, if I didn’t, I’d be too sick to work.